I’ve always dreamt of living somewhere hot.
Being from the UK, the majority of my time is spent complaining about the cold weather. And our summer (if we’re lucky enough to get it), usually only lasts for around three weeks. Moving to the sandy beaches of California or the sunny coasts of Spain never seemed like a bad idea.
One part that’s always worried me about moving to a hot country is how women living there deal with the climate. Of course, soaking up the sun and chilling in the park on a hot day is great if you’re a guy; but it creates yet another problem for women today.
This summer, I finally braved going back to the gym. I say brave because not only was I going during a pandemic (they did have health and safety regulations in place), but I was also attempting to work out in the scorching heat.
I decided to opt for basic gym leggings and a crop top; arguably the most appropriate attire I could come up with in these circumstances. If I had gym shorts, I probably would have worn those instead. But I’m aware that shorts would have been even more risky; not in terms of the weather, but of how they would have been perceived by men.
After I completed my workout with my friend—sweat dripping down my forehead and hair up in a messy bun—we walked home. Not only did we both get approached by men during our journey, but as soon as we went our separate ways, we both individually got approached, too.
These men made remarks about our appearance and tried to stop us on our way, even when we made it clear that we didn’t want to engage in conversation.
Now, I don’t know if this was because we were both in gym gear; as I’m sure any female would agree, men will approach you regardless of what you’re wearing. When it comes to summer, trying to find “appropriate” clothes so you don’t receive any unwanted male attention, becomes even more difficult.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel nervous reaching for shorts, even if it’s 30°C outside.
Will I look inappropriate in this?
Will I be giving off the wrong vibes?
Are these shorts too short?
I do my best to avoid guys wolf whistling at me, stopping me in the street, or shouting derogatory terms from their car window as they drive past.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t discussed as much as it should be; or if most guys even realize the type of stress we go through each day, just walking down the street each day.
If a guy even goes shirtless in public on a hot day, no one bats an eyelid. But if a woman were to step outside in a bikini top, for example, I couldn’t even imagine the amount of abuse and catcalling she would receive. Most people would simply say she’s asking for it.
What if she’s, you know, just hot?
I’m pretty sure she just wants to go about her day. And I’m pretty sure a girl leaving the gym, dripping in sweat on a hot day, simply just wants to go home and cool down without anyone bothering her.
This is not the first time me or my friend have been inappropriately approached by guys, and it definitely won’t be the last.
Last year, I remember meeting up with another friend to have lunch at a local café. As it was a particularly hot day, I chose to wear a crop top with some high-waisted shorts. Not exactly the most daring outfit, if you ask me.
However, on my walk, I was greeted with the same old remarks by men on the street:
Hello beautiful, how are you?
Love, your boobs are hanging out.
Perhaps it was naïve of me to think I wouldn’t receive any unwanted attention. Perhaps I was being too trusting in thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could reach my friend without having to deal with the catcalling or intrusive staring. I remember thinking I should have just covered up until I was with my friend at the café; until I was safe.
At the time, I felt embarrassed, ashamed and even a little scared. But whenever I think back to it, I just feel anger and frustration.
It makes me wonder what on earth we can do to change this type of behaviour. Often, the task at hand seems impossible; but starting a more open and honest conversation about it is definitely the way forward.
Promisingly, there have been efforts to make wolf whistling a hate crime in the UK.
Back in 2016, Nottinghamshire Police became the first force to recognise misogynistic acts (including rape, domestic abuse, stalking, groping, upskirting, and flashing) towards women as hate crimes. Since then, discussions in parliament have taken place and MPs within the country have debated possible changes to the law. Although some police forces have since followed suit, there’s still a long way to go to make it a nationwide scheme.
Changing laws is obviously a massive change in society, but openly discussing this issue with men is another big step. In the hope that any guy who takes part in catcalling reads this, just stop and think.
Why are you doing this?
Do you honestly think shouting at someone is the best way to get their attention?
Or do you actually thrive off making women feel uncomfortable?
I highly doubt you would act like this towards your mum, sister or daughter; or appreciate any man behaving this way with them, so why do it to a stranger in the street?
No girl should ever feel uncomfortable in her summer dress, her denim shorts or her polka dot bikini.
Everybody should have the chance to enjoy the sun on their skin, no matter their gender.
It’s time we start educating young boys about approaching girls, rather than telling girls they should “cover up.”